The Process of Individuation:
A Historical Examination into the Unfolding and Practice of Jung's Theory

J. Michael Moir
Simon Fraser University

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), developer of the school of analytical psychology, can be viewed as the driving force behind the bridging of psychology into the areas of spirituality, theology, mythology, folklore, and the arts. Jung adopted a very holistic approach to the study of psychology through his intense desire to integrate a natural and human science perspective. Although his name is well known and generally equated with the idea of the "collective unconscious", most people are unaware of the vastness and universal nature of the contributions he made to the study of psychology through a twenty- volume collected works. Jung was highly original in his thinking, and through the creation of various theoretical constructs and concepts, attempted to produce a cohesive explanation of the development of human personality and individuality across the life span. "The process of individuation" may be viewed as the thread that binds Jung's life work, both as a person and a scientist. This paper will present a selective historical account of the major views, ideas and influences throughout Jung's work, with the specific interest of examining his idea of the "process of individuation" from a more enlightened contextual perspective.

It should be made clear that it would take volumes to adequately address the historical antecedents and influences on Jung's work, therefore, only those sources central to the thesis of this project will be discussed. The ideas that must be addressed in order to gain a foothold in understanding the development of Jung's concept of the process of individuation are as follows: complexes, personality types- attitudes and functions, the personal and collective unconscious, archetypes, the union of opposites, analysis of dreams and mandala symbolism. These ideas will be uncovered in both an explanatory and elaborative fashion, but will be traced against the backdrop of their historical context in order for the development of "the process" to become clear.

It should be said that the scope of this paper should not be construed as comprehensive or even thorough, but more appropriately, can be viewed as a framework from which to gain a starting point in the study of the compelling agenda for human fulfillment laid out by Jung. It may prove helpful to introduce the goal of individuation now, in order to build on its meaning and development further. At the most elementary level, individuation can be considered as the individual becoming him/herself, a unique person, emancipated from undue influence, and almost exclusively concerned with his/.her own inner development (Jung,1969).

Because of the historical nature of this paper, it seems necessary to begin at a place in time, and move forward chronologically, elaborating on significant issues and ideas along the way. With this said, the development of Jung's personality - running curiously parallel to the development of his theory- beginning in his youth, seems the most logical point to begin.

As a boy growing up in the Swiss city of Basel, Jung was deeply introspective and both troubled and fascinated with the recurrent dreams and fantasies he had. The consistent themes of witches, monsters, devils and gods formed the early basis from which he sought to further understand the inner secrets of his mind (Wehr,1971). Jung was divided by the appeal of concrete facts in science, and his interest in the spiritual problems that comparative religion and philosophy entered into. His grandfather and namesake, Carl Gustav Jung, who was professor of medicine at the University of Basel from 1822 to 1864, although long dead, is presumed to have had a particular influence in Jung's decision to enter into the study of medicine (Brome,1978). As a student, Jung reviewed all the literature he could find on spiritualism, along with his compulsory studies, and wrote his doctoral dissertation under the title of, "The Psychology and Pathology of Supposed Occult Phenomena". When preparing for the state examination in 1900, Jung reviewed the "Textbook of Psychiatry" by Krafft-Ebing and was immediately struck by the possibility of uniting his philosophical interest with natural and medical science in the fledgling area of psychiatry. From this point on, it appears that Jung spent the rest of his life pursuing that exact goal in both a personal and scientific fashion.

Following the completion of his studies in 1900, Jung entered the Psychiatric University Clinic of Burgholzli in Zurich to work as an assistant under Eugen Bleuler, Professor of Psychiatry. Bleuler is credited with introducing the term, schizophrenia, following the work on dementia praecox by Emil Kraepelin. It was shortly after this, that Jung first became acquainted with the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud in the field of hysteria and his unorthodox therapeutic methods outlined in "The Interpretation of Dreams". Although the work undoubtedly sparked a great deal of interest in Jung, the two men would not become intimately acquainted until some time later.

During his time at the clinic, Jung conducted studies on word-association, a method that had been used previously. Employing this association method, "complexes tinged with feeling", emerged from patients, and lead Jung to identify these emotion laden experiences as simply "complexes"(Jung,1969). The word was used to describe the contents of the personal unconscious, which would later be divided from what Jung called the "collective" unconscious. Complexes, as identified by Jung, were diagnosable when the patient was giving responses to stimulus words and would hesitate, have delayed reactions, experience slips of the tongue, repeat the stimulus word, etc., all of which indicated emotional excitement (Jung,1969). This excitement was deemed to be a result of a personally distressing matter in the personal unconscious-- a complex. Pathogenic complexes were assumed to be the basis of neuroses, and could be considered causal elements in the symptoms of hysteria, dementia praecox (schizophrenia), and other psychopathology. Jung believed that a psychogenic complex could temporarily replace the conscious ego, possess all the characteristics of a separate personality, and act in direct opposition to the individual's conscious will (Jung, 1969).

Jung's work with word association also netted a particularly interesting observation that would serve to further define his later work on individuation. Jung demonstrated that between certain members of a family or intimate relationships that responses to stimulus words would be closely linked or even identical (Storr,1973). This appeared to be troublesome to Jung, in that one or both of the subjects had failed to attain sufficient individuality. Jung believed that when two people were intimately associated, an unconscious relationship developed that might have potentially adverse effects. This danger was particularly important to Jung as an analyst, because of the nature of his view on the importance of a dialectic relationship between the analyst and analyzed. Jung termed this danger of too close an association as "contagion" or "participation mystique", contrary to the more familiar psychoanalytic term "identification"(Storr,1973). It appears that Jung viewed this contagion as a threat to the therapist's or subject's own ability to remain individuated, or at least, to continue with a healthy process of individuation.

To stay with the chronological time line, and also to expand on what has already been alluded to as a key influence on Jung, reference to the infamous relationship to Freud should be made. It seems appropriate to both limit the elaboration on this relationship, and also to offer an account as to the nature and degree of Freud's influence on Jung's psychology that may appear different from the mainstream belief. In some of the literature, Jung is portrayed as adopting the psychoanalytic tradition entirely from Freud, with exception to the sexual and aggressive nature of the libido. At best, it seems that this type of account does nothing to shed light on the significant contributions and ideas that Jung held prior to knowing Freud. At worst, it paints Jung as unoriginal, and a mere follower of Freud, which could not be further from the truth. Not to take away from the importance of the revolutionary ideas presented by Freud, and no doubt, a source of insight and inspiration for Jung and others, but it seems more critical to view each man's work independently of the other. The problem appears somewhat analogous to describing all modern philosophers as neo-Platonists, in that Plato addressed many of the philosophical problems considered today. Likewise, to describe all psychology interested in the unconscious properties of the psyche as psychoanalytic, or neo-Freudian, seems equally ridiculous.

The beginning of Jung's relationship with Freud came following the findings of the word-association experiments, in which Freud's theory of repression appeared to be supported empirically. Jung immediately wrote Freud, and began what would turn out to be a six-year relationship- primarily one of correspondence. Although the men did meet fairly regularly, Jung was disappointed to never be able to get beyond Freud's narrow focus on the sexual and aggressive nature of psychic energy, his concentration on tiny details and his unsubstantiated theoretical assumptions (Bennet,1966). This would be perhaps the most significant, but not only, reason for the end of their collaboration. The most interesting and pertinent point to be made from the influence of Freud on Jung's theory of the process of individuation is the impact on Jung personally. Following the break, Jung attempted to understand the reason for their differences with the objectivity of a scientist. Clearly unable to do so, he examined a similar type of conflict between Alfred Adler - the founder of individual psychology - and Freud in order to shed light on his experience. From this analysis, Jung postulated a personality typology that addressed the apparent temperament differences of Freud and Adler. Freud was extraverted and Adler (and himself) were introverted.

Jung began formulating his typology by making the distinction between extraversion and introversion, based on the conscious ego, but would later incorporate the idea of unconscious energy into his theory. The extravert made all events external to himself of primary importance, whereas, the introvert holds the subjective experience of events most highly. Jung believed that this disposition was not fixed, but would alter over the course of one's life. This idea is key to the process of individuation, but must be reserved for discussion following further development. Jung spent over ten years pondering his personality typology, mostly because he believed that it was too simple (Bennet,1966). To stay roughly to the chronology, during these years Jung worked extensively on his theory of the unconscious, and much of this work helped expand his personality typology prior to its publication in 1920. It seems more appropriate to discuss the unconscious underpinnings, before proceeding with the expansion of the personality work; largely because of the necessity to trace the development of the ideas.

Jung approached the study of the unconscious in a historical manner which took into account all the preceding literature from experimental psychology to psychotherapy of neuroses. Of perhaps the greatest influence were Charcot, Janet, Bernheim, Liebault, Breuer, and of course, Freud (Jung,1969). To a great degree, the nature of unconscious instinctual drives appear to have been the most contentious issue for Jung. He could simply not accept the narrow dogmatic approach assumed by Freud. Jung believed that the psychic energy that drove the unconscious mind, and allowed certain things to surface in consciousness was much more expansive, and can best be described in his own words:

... the unconscious depicts an extremely fluid state of affairs: everything of which I know, but of which I am not now thinking; everything of which I was once conscious but have now forgotten; everything perceived by my senses, but not noted by my conscious mind; everything which, involuntarily and without paying attention to it, I feel, think, remember, want, and do; all future things that are taking shape in me and will sometime come to consciousness: all this is the content of the unconscious.(Jung,1954, p.396)

The influence of William James is apparent here, James talked about the "fringe of consciousness", and it is clear that Jung appreciated the metaphoric analysis of light and darkness used to illustrate marginal consciousness. The source of the psychic energy needed to run the psyche was presumed to be a tension between opposing forces or facets of the unconscious that are in constant flux - although, Jung believed much more than sexual and aggressive instincts were held in check by society. (Jung,1969). It should be said that Jung accepted the idea of the Law of the Conservation of Energy -after Freud-, in order to explain the tension and release of energy through treatment. Again, the balance of opposing psychic forces is key to the process of individuation and will be expanded on following further development.

To return to the personality typology with a grasp of Jung's position on unconscious energy, it is apparent that the simple distinction of extraversion/ introversion no longer satisfied him. Because he had indicated that Adler and himself were both introverts, yet Adler seemed very different from himself, Jung proposed a functional aspect to personality in addition to the previous attitude types. The four functional types applied to both introverts and extraverts and are as follows: thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting. The four types fall on two axes, and form two opposing sets; thinking vs. feeling and sensing vs. intuiting. The quaternity appears to have followed from Galen's model based on the four humours (bodily fluids). As a symbol itself, it has far reaching significance to Jung's psychology, as it appears frequently in his discussion on religious symbolism, and represents wholeness or the opposing axes that bisect a circle. What is important to note with respect to the process of individuation, is that each person contains the capacity for all types, and similar to the attitude types, they are not fixed, but may change across situations and time. Also, each person has one dominant functional type and a secondary one, for instance, Jung himself claimed to be an introverted, thinker-intuiter.

Now that complexes, personality types, and the personal unconscious have been briefly discussed, it is necessary to turn to Jung's idea of the "collective" unconscious and archetypes in order to more fully grasp the playing field on which the process of individuation occurs. This concept may be considered one of Jung's most creative and original. The collective unconscious is characterized as the deepest and most inaccessible layer of the psyche which contains the remnants of humankind's evolutionary past, and is universal to the human species (Jung,1969). Jung viewed the collective unconscious as what human nature really is; the major structural components being "archetypes", or universal patterns or predispositions that act as flexible templates for the enacting of universal behavioral sequences (Jung,1969). The main idea to catch is this flexibility, with respect to the process of individuation.

The archetypal endowment with which each of us is born presupposes the natural life cycle of our species - being mothered, exploring the environment, playing in the peer group, adolescence, being initiated, establishing a place in the social hierarchy, courting, marrying, child-rearing, hunting, gathering, fighting, participating in religious rituals, assuming social responsibilities of advanced maturity, and preparation for death.(Stevens,1983, p. 40)

Examples of these Jungian archetypes are as follows: Mother, Child-God, Hero, Warrior, Magician, Trickster, Wise Old Man, Anima, Animus, Shadow and Persona. Evidence for the existence of these, as argued by Jung, is the appearance of them in ancient myths, stories, legends, art, rituals, customs, dreams and symbols. Jung studied in depth Eastern and Western Religion, medieval alchemy, different cultures, ancient mythology, through numerous sources and experts. The extent of these influences is far too immense to elaborate on further for the present project, but it should be clear that Jung was not simply speculating on the universal connections.

The way in which archetypes act upon the conscious contents are similar to instincts, in that they regulate, modify and motivate them. Archetypes hold a distinctly "spiritual" character, according to Jung, and in this way they are very different from instincts. The idea is presented that analogous to electricity, spirit and instinct form opposite charges that form the potential that energizes the psychic system. This union of opposites is precisely the goal of individuation.

The self is considered to be the center of the personal universe, around which the systems of attitude, function and archetypes are situated. The self holds together the opposing forces that are always in flux and provides the person with unity, equilibrium, and stability (Jung,1969). Jung believes that the goal of human existence is development of the self - the process of individuation. The process itself is lifelong, dynamic, complex, and involves the union of all aspects of personality, both conscious and subconscious. As mentioned earlier, the mandala (or circle) is symbolic of the mature self having reconciled all opposites in psychological unity. The process itself has such appeal in the sense of life being a grand heroic quest. It may become apparent at this point how the idea of complexes could affect the process. To reiterate, pathogenic complexes are capable of acting as separate personalities, thus the need for a therapy that is focused on the emancipation of the true self.

Jung's analysis of dreams was to a large extent due to Freud's discovery of the "royal road". Jung did however differ on many key assumptions; for instance, the idea that dreams were invariably concealing the unacceptable was not accurate. Jung believed that dreams acted somewhat like a counterbalance to the conscious attitude. The language of dreams was considered to be a complex assortment of symbols (Storr,1973). The goal of therapy was to make the patient consciously aware of the meaning of their dreams and thus balance the unconscious and conscious contents. What is most important in Jungian psychotherapy is the dialectic relationship assumed by the doctor and patient. Unlike the power relationship assumed by Freud, Jung believed that he had to adopt a position of healer and must be involved in the process actively rather than passive observation.

The main criticism levelled at Jung's process of individuation appears to be its reliance on subjectivity and movement away from experimental verification Others are concerned with the scattered way in which his ideas are presented; often in different works or disorganized within works (Dry,1961). It has also been speculated that Jung was not altogether mentally intact himself, and that some of his writing indicates a psychotic flavour.

It seems appropriate to let Jung's words conclude this analysis of the process of individuation, as mine could surely not capture the essence of his idea quite so clearly.

This process is, in effect, the spontaneous realization of the whole man.... The more he is merely 'I', the more he splits himself off from the collective man, of whom he is also a part, and may even find himself in opposition to him. But since everything living strives for wholeness, the inevitable one-sidedness of our conscious life is continually being corrected and compensated by the universal human being in us, whose goal is the ultimate integration of conscious and unconscious, or better, the assimilation of the ego to a wider personality.(Jung,1966, p.292)


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